Progress of a half century in the study of the Luria-Delbrück distribution

Math Biosci. Nov-Dec 1999;162(1-2):1-32. doi: 10.1016/s0025-5564(99)00045-0.


The Luria-Delbrück mutation model has been mathematically formulated in a number of ways. This review article examines four most important formulations, focusing on important practical issues closely linked with the distribution of the number of mutants. These issues include the probability generating functions, moments (cumulants), computational methods and asymptotics. This review emphasizes basic principles which not only help to unify existing results but also allow for a few useful extensions. In addition, the review offers a historical perspective and some new explanations of divergent moments.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Historical Article
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Genetics / history*
  • History, 20th Century
  • Models, Genetic*
  • Mutation*
  • Poisson Distribution